A coalition of U.S. states is reportedly readying a new antitrust lawsuit against Google that will claim that the company changed its search infrastructure to the disadvantage of certain rivals that offer specialised search results.
According to Politico, the complaint — led by Democratic Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser — could go live as soon as Thursday.
The new case will be distinct from a different antitrust suit filed against Google in October by the U.S. Justice Department and 11 Republican state attorneys general. In that lawsuit, Google is accused of drawing up exclusive contracts with companies like Apple, Mozilla and the manufacturers of Android-powered smartphones to come pre-loaded with Google as the default browser search engine.
Companies with specialised search results that utilise what’s sometimes known as “vertical search,” including Amazon, Tripadvisor and Yelp, have long claimed that Google’s algorithm is tailored to prioritise its own products in search results. This means that competing companies must either accept lower traffic, or buy ads in order to compete with Google and appear high up in the search results.
Although investigators familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity did not say how many states had signed on to the petition, the initial investigation that was made public in September 2019 had signatories that included Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and every state except Alabama and California.
The states-led lawsuit is expected to be filed in the same Washington, D.C. federal court as the Justice Department case, which will make it easier to eventually consolidate the two.
The new lawsuit is set to come amid a flurry of antitrust litigation being prepared by the Justice Department that sets a number of Silicon Valley titans in the crosshairs. Just last week, the Federal Trade Commission and dozens of states filed a suit seeking to break up Facebook for using anticompetitive tactics in order to buy or neutralise its rivals and shore up its market dominance.